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Accreditation

In June of 2009, after a comprehensive three-year self-study process, we were granted a six-year term of accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

You can read the full text of the Visiting Committee’s Report to the WASC Commission through the chapter links below.

Chapter I: Student/Community Profile

SELF-STUDY VISITING COMMITTEE REPORT WESTERN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES

for

Nativity Prep Academy
3233 Market Street
San Diego, CA 92102
May 4-6, 2009

Visiting Committee Members

Mrs. Ann Desmond, Chair
San Diego, CA

Mrs. Mary H. Charles
St. Lucy’s Priory High School
Glendora, CA

Rev. Dr. Gregory A. Hepner
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
Palm Desert, CA

Chapter I: Student/Community Profile

Nativity Prep Academy opened its doors in 2001 as an all-scholarship, privately funded middle school serving inner-city boys and girls in the southeast area of the city of San Diego, approximately two miles from downtown San Diego. The site is in an urban area chosen particularly for its high concentration of underserved families. Approximately 98% of families in the area are determined to be low-income, and almost 60% are considered impoverished. Now in its eighth year, Nativity Prep continues to serve 60 middle school students, most of whom are second-language learners from low-income families. Nativity Prep operates as a private, independent, non-profit Catholic school.

The historical roots of Nativity Prep Academy extend back to the 1950s and to the efforts of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in New York City. The Jesuits’ inner city outreach program at that time included the Nativity Mission Center, located in the Bowery on the Lower East Side, and served a primarily Puerto Rican community of families. The Jesuits recognized that early intervention for underserved, middle-school-aged children was necessary to save them from the ongoing cycle of crime, drugs and poverty. They developed programs to alleviate these adverse conditions, with special attention given to a seven-week summer camp.

After two months in the Adirondack Mountains, and removed from the day-to-day struggles of inner-city life, the children flourished. It became evident, however, that to maintain the progress from the summer program, students needed an alternative to re-entering the public school system. So, in 1971, the first “Nativity” model middle school opened at the Jesuit Nativity Mission Center, serving approximately 20 students in the sixth grade. Since then over 40 Nativity-model schools have opened in the United States, all of them serving low-income, impoverished students in a college-prep, scholarship-based educational setting and all of them based on the original Nativity school. In the past five years the Nativity schools have joined with the San Miguel Schools (De La Salle Christian Brothers), all of them adhering to a set of mission standards for each school and all affiliated under one educational network’the Nativity/Miguel Network of Schools. There are now over 60 Nativity/Miguel Schools in the U.S.

Nativity/Miguel-model schools (NM) seek to counter the overwhelming pressures of street culture and poverty by challenging and encouraging underserved students to reach their full potential. NM schools provide highly focused educational opportunities with excellent student-to-faculty ratios, extended-hour school days, and extended-year schedule, daily tutoring, and enrichment and counseling programs. Noting that many inner-city schools have drop-out rates of 50% or more, 92% of NM students graduate from high school, as compared to the national rate of 55% for African-American and Hispanic students, and the four-year dropout rate for the network’s high school graduation class from two years ago (2007) was a mere 6%. A combined 96% of NM graduates who completed high school in 2007 enrolled in a two- or four-year college in the fall of that same year.

San Diego Nativity Prep Academy opened in September 2001 with 19 students enrolled in the fifth grade; and in each subsequent year, through 2003, enrollment increased by graduating students to “upper” grade-levels: In 2002, 20 new fifth graders were enrolled and the rising fifth graders moved on to sixth grade, giving the school 40 students in fifth and sixth grades; and in 2003 another 20 fifth graders were enrolled and the rising fifth and sixth grade students moved onto the sixth and seventh grades. In 2004, and continuing to the present, the school discontinued enrolling fifth grade students and moved to a three-grade model of instruction in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, with a capacity enrollment of 60 students, and with an average of 20 students per grade.

The school has moved from its initial “storefront” location at 3275 Market Street to a permanent site located at 3233 Market Street. The initial school site was leased commercial space with one main office (administration), one classroom for fifth grade students, and a leased trailer-classroom for sixth grade students. The deed of ownership for the current site belongs to a private benefactor, who has extended a 55-year no-cost lease ($1 per year) to the school. The long-term site-development plan includes documentation asserting the benefactor’s intent to transfer ownership of the property to the school. The school is in the process of completing a five-year master plan for the construction of a brand-new facility on the current site. The new site would add an additional 13,130 square feet of indoor space and 11,000 square feet of outdoor space, and increase the student enrollment capacity by 50%. New site development remains a critical area for improvement for Nativity Prep Academy.

Since Nativity Prep Academy opened in 2001, the school has grown in a number of ways:

  • Student enrollment has increased by 200% since 2001 and has increased by 19% since 2006.
  • The school has added eight additional administrative offices, two conference/meeting rooms, and a computer and science lab, all of which represents a 40% increase of indoor space.
  • The number of candidates/applicants for admission has increased by an average of 20% each year since 2001.
  • The operating budget has increased by an average of 15% since 2001.
  • A competitive salary scale for full-time faculty has been established.
  • The school is planning a $5 million capital campaign to build a new facility on the current school site. Plans have been approved by the School Board and are in the process of being reviewed by the City of San Diego.
  • New elective and extra-curricular courses have been added to the curriculum.
  • An active Parent Committee, with parent-elected officers and grade-level representatives was started in 2007.
  • The school’s Advancement Department employs two full-time directors.
  • The school has added an online grade-keeping database for teachers.
  • A new schoolwide phone system has been installed.
  • The graduate/alumni base has increased by an average of 30% each year.

Nativity Prep Academy is an all-scholarship school; families do not pay tuition, other than a nominal contribution, or fee of $25 per month. The school is funded exclusively by private investors/donors, and by foundation grants and corporate sponsorships. The only government funding the school receives is from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Title 1 for Private Schools. All NCLB funding is earmarked exclusively for a part-time reading specialist. The only state funding the school receives is for the free-and reduced lunch program.

The school operates on an extended daily schedule, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and an extended yearly schedule of more than 200 days per year, including a mandatory, five-week on-site and off-site summer semester for returning and incoming (sixth grade) students.

The school does not operate under the aegis of the Diocese of San Diego; however, Nativity Prep students participate in interscholastic team sports through the diocesan sports program. The school is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in the State of California, and maintains a formal relationship with the Nativity/Miguel Schools, the organizing body for all Nativity schools in the U.S., but one that does not issue any formal accreditation.

COMMUNITY PROFILE

Nativity Prep Academy is located in the Stockton community of Southeast San Diego, where the racial demographic is predominantly Hispanic. Approximately 80% of the school’s families live within the postal-code boundaries for San Diego City Schools; the other 20% live in Chula Vista, National City, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley, all municipalities independent of the City of San Diego, but close enough for students and families to manage a short commute.

Estimates from the 2006 San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) census indicate that the combined population for the cities where the school’s students reside was 1.6 million. According to the same SANDAG census, the estimated combined population for the neighborhoods where the majority of Nativity Prep’s students reside was 74,000, which comprises the southeast San Diego neighborhoods within the seven-mile area of the school: Highway 94 to the north, National City to the south, downtown San Diego to the west, and Interstate Highway 805 to the east.

The school’s community profile cites the following information taken from Dataquick, an online software program that compiles demographic data from various public documents, agencies and studies:

  • The average household income for San Diego County is $44,375; the average household income for Nativity Prep’s census track is $19,792, with almost three times as many people living per household. This census track average falls below the national poverty line.
  • 35% of households in the school’s census track earn less than $10,000 annually.
  • Children who are enrolled in the reduced- and free-lunch program in Southeast San Diego typically score less than half as well on standardized tests, take college entrance exams at one quarter the rate of the middle class, and are 15 to 20 times less likely to graduate from college.
  • The ethnic breakdown in Southeast San Diego is approximately 72% Hispanic, 19% African-American, 6% Asian, and 3% Anglo.
  • Roughly 76% of working adults in the school’s census track area are employed in the service industry (e.g. hotel and restaurant workers, fast-food cooks, kitchen help, and servers) and in the specialty-craft and repair industries (e.g. auto mechanics, day laborers, etc.).
  • Nativity Prep Academy also notes several major issues unique to the area in which the school is located:
  • Based on San Diego Police Department statistics, despite a national and city-wide decrease in the reporting of violent crimes, there is an average of one homicide per week within a mile radius of the school.
  • Within the school’s census track area, the average square-feet per housing unit is one-half the San Diego County average, yet three times as many people live per square-foot of indoor space as the county average.
  • There are a number of national research reports that focus on the growing epidemic of low-income high school graduation rates, particularly among urban students of color from low-income families. For Hispanic and African-American students in San Diego City Schools, fewer than half graduate from high school.

PARENT AND STUDENT PROFILE

Each year the Nativity Prep Academy enrolls students who demonstrate a broad range of academic ability, of family background, of personalities, and of promise for continuing their education at a college-prep high school in San Diego. With few exceptions, boys and girls enroll from the public schools and, on average, enter scoring one or two years behind grade level in basic skills achievement (reading, language, and math), as measured by the results of their sixth grade, pre-year standardized testing. The school typically sees dramatic growth in students’ academic achievement over their three years at Nativity Prep, although the students’ greatest academic need continues to be their development as skilled readers and writers.

A number of Nativity Prep’s students come from single-parent homes, but the school also enrolls a number of students who are raised by two parents. Few, if any, of the parents are graduates of high school, let alone college, although most have completed some or all of their elementary (K-6 or K-8) school education. Specific educational background data for the parents of currently enrolled Nativity Prep students was not available.

In order to be considered for enrollment at Nativity Prep Academy, a student candidate must qualify for free- or reduced-lunch, must be a student in good standing at his or her current school, and must therefore be likely to enter sixth, seventh, or eighth grade. If the student meets these guidelines, the school asks for a copy of his or her most recent report card, letters of recommendation from two different teachers, and the most recent standardized test scores from the candidate’s previous school. In addition to a family’s eligibility for free- and reduced-lunch, the school looks for commitment and motivation on the part of the family and the candidate. Once a student is accepted, the Director of Admissions visits the student’s home to sign a one-year contract and to review the Parent-Student Handbook.

The school’s overall attrition rate for the past five years, 2003-2008, is 13%, based on the number of students who were enrolled and who subsequently left the school, relative to the total enrollment, at any time between 2003 and 2008. Of the 39 students who left the school, the majority (13) withdrew because their families moved. There are a variety of reasons that students and parents have decided to leave the school. In most cases, students felt the length of the school day and/or the amount of homework and schoolwork were overwhelming, and parents acquiesced to the wishes of their sons and daughters to transfer them to another school. The school very seldom takes the initiative to dismiss or expel a student, but makes every effort to support all students once they are accepted and it is the school’s expectation that students who are admitted will remain for three years. The school notes that in its seven-year history, it has expelled only three students – two for attendance and one for behavior (fighting). The sole instance of expulsion for behavior occurred over five years ago and there has not been a similar experience since. The table below shows the aggregate data (percentages and corresponding numbers) for students who left the school between 2003 and 2008.

Moved out-of-area/state 33% (13/39)
Student-Parent decision 31% (12/39)
Academics 23% (09/39)
Attendance 5% (02/39)
Behavior 3% (01/39)

The school maintains, on average, an enrollment with an even number of boys and girls; and the racial makeup of the students (98% Hispanic, 2% African-American) is more-or-less representative of the demographics of the neighborhood in which the school is located. As a faith-based school – namely, a school in the Catholic/Christian tradition – the majority of the students (90%) are Catholic. However, the school does not discriminate against any student or family on the basis of religion. The following table provides a brief overview of the current (2008-2009) student demographics.

Student Demographic Data
Gender, Age, Ethnicity, and Home Language, 2008–2009
Gender Age Ethnicity Home
Language
Grade M F 10 11 12 13 14 H AA OTH Span Eng
6th Grade 9 12 2 19 20 0 1 20 1
7th Grade 12 9 1 20 19 1 1 19 2
8th Grade 11 8 16 3 19 0 0 18 1
Totals 32 29 2 20 20 16 3 58 1 2 57 4
Percentages 52% 48% 3% 33% 33% 26% 5% 95% 2% 3% 93% 7%

Each year Nativity Prep averages just under 98% daily student attendance, or slightly less than four absences per student annually. Each year parents and students are required to affirm their commitment to maintain the school’s daily- and extended-year schedules by making sure students attend school on-time everyday of the scheduled academic year. A number of students earn perfect quarterly attendance each year. On average, 42% of students earn perfect attendance honors each quarter, that is, no days late and no days absent. Seldom is there an instance in which a student is absent without prior or day-of notice from a parent or guardian. The table below shows attendance patterns from 2002 through 2008, calculated each year based on the number of absences (actual) for all students and the total number of scheduled days (expected) of attendance for all students.

Attendance Patterns, 2003–2008
Year Absences #Students #Days Total % Abs. %Attendance
for Year
2003-2004 244 51 x 187 = 244/9537 = 2.5% (-100) = 97.5%
2004-2005 230 53 x 175 = 230/9275 = 2.4% (-100) = 97.6%
2005-2006 187 57 x 181 = 187/10659 = 1.7% (-100) = 98.3%
2006-2007 180 53 x 175 = 180/9275 = 1.9% (-100) = 98.1%
2007-2008 245 62 x 177 = 245/10974 = 2.2% (-100) = 97.8%
Averages 217 55 x 179 = 217/9944 = 2.2% (-100) = 97.8%

The school handles discipline in a variety of ways, though it remains the day-to-day responsibility first and foremost of each and every student and teacher, in and out of the classroom, to behave in a manner consistent with the school’s Honor Code: “I will not lie, cheat, or steal: I will respect my own physical and spiritual integrity, that of each person at the Academy, and the Academy itself.” The school also has a highly structured set of rules and procedures for each part of the day – from morning arrival and schoolwide assembly, to lunch, recess, and afternoon study hall – and these rules and procedures have proven highly effective at limiting the potential for discipline issues. The schoolwide “S-T-R-E-T-C-H” rules, in particular, emphasize expectations for on-task behavior during the school day. The “S-T-R-E-T-C-H” rules are posted prominently in each classroom and on the campus.

Generally, outside of the purview of a teacher’s day-to-day responsibilities for managing classroom behavior and for supervising student behavior during morning arrival, study hall and lunch, the school deals with very few discipline referrals in the course of any week, month or year. Small classes and the overall student enrollment afford a number of opportunities to deal first-hand and one-to-one with student behavior. The high number of homework detentions is due to these being meted out to any student who, on a daily basis, fails to complete or hand in any homework assignment for any of the content areas for which he or she is responsible. The following table shows the numbers of discipline referrals for each of the past six years.

Discipline Referrals, 2003–2009
Year Detentions In-School Suspensions At-Home Suspensions Dismissals/
Expulsions
2003-2004 N/A 3 1 0
2004-2005 N/A 4 0 1
2005-2006 N/A 3 0 0
2006-2007 N/A 5 0 0
2007-2008 N/A 12 0 1
2008-2009 103* 16** 2 0
*34 non-conduct (missing homework) **9 for missing excessive homework

In keeping with one of the essential Nativity/Miguel-school Mission Standards, Nativity Prep maintains small class sizes. Class sizes are steady at an average of 20 students per each grade and rarely exceed a maximum of 22. The school employs seven full-time teachers, with at least three additional full-time administrators serving as part-time teachers as well, making the student-teacher ratio approximately six-to-one.

The most salient statistic regarding Nativity Prep’s parent involvement is that for the past seven years there has been 100% attendance from all parents or guardians for quarterly, face-to-face parent-student-teacher conferences. The school also has the support of an active group of parent-elected representatives who serve as officers on a schoolwide Parent Committee. Since 2007, these elected parents and guardians have worked closely with the Principal to support annual school goals, as determined by the Principal and the Committee.

The school administered a comprehensive written survey to all parents in December 2008 and had a 100% response from parents in all three grades. The majority of respondents (77%) were the mothers of students, and only a handful (8%) of respondents were both mother and father. The survey was designed by a representative group of parents under the direction of the Principal, and incorporated response items that the parent group felt would be most telling to measure the perceived strengths and areas of growth for the school from the perspective of the parent constituency. The following is a list of summary points from the parent survey:

  • The overwhelming majority of parents agree that the school is performing very well and is meeting the needs of their sons and daughters.
  • Parents maintain unanimously high expectations about college matriculation for their sons and daughters, an indication that the college-prep message and mission are supported at home, as well as at school.
  • The two comments noted most frequently for the question “What is the BEST thing about Nativity?” were 1) the availability of and support from the teachers and the Principal towards the students and the parents, and 2) the individual attention and support that the school provides.
  • There was unanimous agreement in the written responses for the question “What three things would you CHANGE about Nativity?” The most frequent noted response for this question pertains to improving and expanding the school facility.

Students at Nativity Prep Academy have a number of opportunities to become involved in extra-curricular activities – those that support both the academic goals of the schools and those that apply more broadly to the academic, social, physical, spiritual, and emotional development of the students. Co-curricular activities include community service, elective classes, interscholastic athletics, mentoring, field trips, monthly Mass, ASB events, annual science fair, spiritual retreats, science camping trips, and Artsonia.

Nativity Prep does not employ any specialized faculty or staff; either part- or full-time, for special needs students. The school makes every effort to screen for special-needs students through its admissions process, but has on occasion admitted students with learning disabilities with or without full disclosure from parents and/or from the students’ previous schools about existing or past special needs. Typically, when a student demonstrates poor behavior and/or low achievement, the school engages in a process of review and support that includes in-house academic testing, referral to a public school for testing, psycho-social counseling, referral for outside counseling, reading specialist, one-to-one tutoring, meeting(s) with parents, and weekly progress reports.

In October 2008 the school issued a written survey to all 61 students. The survey included 40 statements, each of which asked students to rate the statement on a four-point Likert scale (1 less; 4 more) to indicate their level of agreement. The survey also included three short questions requiring a narrative response to student-perceived strengths and areas for growth. The survey data were disaggregated by gender and grade-level, and schoolwide gender as well. Following are a few highlights of the survey results:

  • There was greater agreement across the three grades about student-perceived strengths of the school as opposed to areas for growth, or “things they would change about Nativity.”
  • The five ESLR-related perception questions all received ratings of 3.1 or better, on a scale of 4.0, with the exception of the statement related to students’ emotional development (2.9).
  • Students’ concerns about and hopes for “better facilities” and /or a “larger school” received the highest percentage of agreement (48%) schoolwide.
  • The highest rated statement (3.8) pertained to teachers’ expectations for students (“My teachers expect me to do my best.”).
  • Students generally indicated a low rate of agreement with a statement related to the perceived level of difficulty, or challenging nature, of specific content-area work.

Follow-up data on students who have graduated from Nativity Prep Academy is limited to the first four – and only four – graduating classes, from 2005 through 2008, a total of 62 graduates. The following table shows the percentages of Nativity graduates, combined, for their current enrollment in public or private high schools.

High School Enrollment of Graduates, 2005–2008
Types of Schools (% of total graduates)
Private/Independent 5%
Catholic Boarding 3%
Private/Catholic 26%
Public/Charter 23%
Public/Magnet 7%
Public Regional 26%
Attending Out of State 7%
Other (GED, homeschool, etc.) 3%

The school issued a written survey to 21 graduates (about a third of the alumni base) who had attended a scheduled graduate-support meeting in October 2008. The survey was written by Nativity’s director of graduate support with the intent of discerning how well the school has prepared its graduates for high school, including specific statements related to the ESLRs. The survey included 16 items, 15 of which were statements asking graduates to indicate their level of agreement for each using a four-point Likert scale, and one which was an open response item asking graduates to include additional comments. Highlights from the survey include:

  • For the statement, “The teachers at Nativity Prep care for my education,” 85% of the respondents indicated they “strongly agree.” And the other 15% said they “agree.”
  • 90% of the graduates responded that they are planning to attend college after high school.
  • 90% of alumni completing the survey either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, Nativity Prep “helped me find a high school I can be proud of.”
  • Both current students and alumni varied widely in their agreement with the statement “The classes offered at Nativity were (are) challenging.” There is initial agreement among the current faculty that students’ and alumni understanding of the term “challenging” may be at least some of the reason for the wide range of agreement (or disagreement).
  • The write-in comments for the alumni survey were very positive, many of them directly expressing gratitude for the opportunity they had to attend Nativity.

STUDENT PERFORMANCE

Nativity Prep Academy administers the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), which is the test most used by Catholic elementary and middle schools in San Diego. The ITBS is given twice per year, at the start of October and again at the end of the year in June. For the past three years the school has also administered the California Achievement Test (CAT-6), primarily as a comparative measure against the achievement of students in local public schools. The five-year aggregate from both tests reveal that Nativity students’ scores are consistently higher and considerably above the national average. Student achievement is strongest in mathematics and less so in language and reading. However, for each successive year students are achieving much higher than expected in both mathematics and language/reading. Students enter Nativity Prep on average one or two years behind in reading and language, and closer to grade level in mathematics.

The school’s student performance data also shows a number of students who, year-to-year, have made little or no gains in achievement. These students are provided with support to help them, or may be referred for additional and comprehensive testing. The following table shows average entering grade-equivalent scores (start of grade 6) and graduating grade-equivalent scores (end of grade 8) for the school’s four graduating classes.

Aggregate Grade-Equivalent Scores for Reading, Language, Math, and Core Entering and Graduating, 2005–2008
Entering Graduating
Reading (R) 4.6 9.2
Language (L) 4.7 9.2
Mathematics (M) 5.2 10.8
Core (RLM combined) 4.8 9.7

The average annual schoolwide grade point average (GPA), as measured by the standard grade-point scale is slightly better than a 3.0. The following table shows annual, aggregate grade-level marks in each content area for the past three years and the corresponding grade point average for those marks.

Aggregate Annual Content-Area Letter Grades and Corresponding Grade-Point Averages, 2005–2008
2005–2006
Grade ILA Math Science SS Religion FL PE Art Average
6th B (2.9) B (3.0) B (3.0) B (2.9) B (3.0) B- (2.8) A (4.0) A (3.9) B (3.2)
7th B (3.0) B (3.0) B (3.0) B (3.0) B (3.1) B (3.1) A (4.0) A (3.9) B+ (3.3)
8th B (3.1) B (3.0) B- (2.8) B- (2.8) B (3.1) B+ (3.5) A (4.0) B+ (3.6) B (3.2)
Cumulative B (3.2)
2006–2007
Grade ILA Math Science SS Religion FL PE Art Average
6th B- (2.8) B (3.1) B- (2.8) B- (2.8) B (3.3) B- (2.8) A- (3.8) B+ (3.5) B (3.2)
7th B- (2.7) B- (2.7) B- (2.8) C+(2.6) B+ (3.5) B (3.0) B+ (3.6) B+ (3.6) B (3.0)
8th B (3.2) B- (2.8) B- (2.8) B- (2.8) B (3.0) B (3.0) A (3.9) B+ (3.4) B (3.2)
Cumulative B (3.1)
2007–2008
Grade ILA Math Science SS Religion FL PE Art Average
6th C+ (2.6) B- (2.8) B- (2.8) B- (2.7) B- (2.8) C+ (2.7) A- (3.8) B+ (3.6) B (3.0)
7th B (2.9) B- (2.7) B- (2.7) B (3.0) B (3.2) B (3.1) A- (3.7) B+ (3.4) B (3.1)
8th B (2.9) B+ (3.3) B (2.9) B (3.0) B+ (3.3) B+ (3.3) A- (3.8) B+ (3.6) B+ (3.3)
Cumulative B (3.1)

Nativity students average an annual passing rate on comprehensive semester exams of 83%. At the close of each academic quarter the school presents academic and attendance awards for students in all three grades. The following table shows the average percentage (four academic quarters) of students who have earned each type of award for each of the past five years. On average 62% of Nativity students earn academic honors and slightly more than 40% in any given year earn perfect attendance.

Average Rate of Student Awards, Academic & Attendance, 2003–2008
Award/Description 2003-
2004
2004-
2005
2005-
2006
2006-
2007
2007-
2008
Averages
Principal’s List (all A- or better) 11% 10% 7% 2% 4% 7%
High Honors (all B+ or better) 4% 6% 3% 6% 7% 5%
Honors (all B- or better) 26% 24% 34% 28% 28 28%
Honorable Mention (min.3.0) 24% 21% 22% 24% 21% 22%
Perfect Attendance (no a’s or t’s) 36% 36% 45% 52% 41% 42%

FACULTY AND STAFF PROFILE

Nativity Prep Academy currently employs ten teachers for the school’s academic faculty. The four teachers who are responsible for core-content teaching (language arts, math, social studies, and science) have earned their California teaching credentials; one has earned a masters degree in education and a masters degree in English; two have earned their masters degrees in another field of graduate study (leadership studies); two are beginning or “intern” teachers through the AmeriCorps National Service Program; and one is a non-AmeriCorps beginning teacher with prior part-time teaching experience. During the school’s first two years the entire faculty was made up of beginning, non-credentialed AmeriCorps teachers, as the start-up budget limited the school’s ability to afford direct salary compensation for credentialed teachers. The AmeriCorps teachers who remained after the first year and agreed to stay for another two years were enrolled in a two-year, tuition-free, part-time teaching credential program at the University of San Diego. Nativity has now shifted its efforts from hiring only beginning teachers-in-training to hiring teachers who have already earned their credentials, particularly for instruction in the core academic content-areas.

In any given year, two to four teachers depart from Nativity for a variety of reasons, and all of them – with two exceptions in the past six years – voluntarily. Most of the turnover occurs among non-credentialed AmeriCorps teachers who join the faculty to contribute a year or two of volunteer service before moving onto other employment opportunities or graduate studies. The following table shows the percentage of turnover among teaching faculty, both credentialed (C) and non-credentialed (NC), from 2002-2008.

Year # Teachers # Not
Returning
Turnover % Total % among
all faculty
C NC C NC C NC
2002-2003 0 7 0 4 0% 57% 57%
2003-2004 3 7 0 2 0% 20% 20%
2004-2005 5 5 3 1 30% 20% 40%
2005-2006 2 8 0 3 0% 30% 30%
2006-2007 4 6 1 3 10% 30% 40%
2007-2008 4 6 3 3 30% 30% 60%

The school administered a written survey to the ten full-time teaching faculty in March 2009 and all ten were completed. The survey included ten items, ranging from school management and parental involvement to school environment and staff development. There were three additional open-response questions, two of which asked faculty to identify areas of strength and areas for growth for the overall school program, and one asking them to include any additional comments. A brief list of highlights from the survey follows:

  • An area of growth, supported by a consensus of the faculty, is for more focus on building a Catholic, faith-based community among students, teachers, and parents.
  • 100% of the faculty agree or strongly agree that communication among teachers and administrators is frequent and effective. 100% of faculty also agree or strongly agree that they support the mission and philosophy of the school.
  • There is equally consistent agreement among faculty that there is high parent involvement and active parent support of the school.
  • There is low-rated agreement among faculty about safety policies. The specific concern has to do with three after-hour break-ins and a series of after-hour trespasses over the course of the past five years.
  • There is also consensus among the faculty that the school needs to do more in the area of teacher professional development.
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Chapter II: Progress Report

This report represents the first full WASC Self-Study for the Nativity Prep Academy. The Initial Visit Committee, which reviewed the school’s program in February 2006, left the school with seven major recommendations. The school has responded to each of the recommendations in various ways.

1. The Committee recommends that the school develop a formal and comprehensive written curriculum for all grades and subjects.

AND

2. The Committee recommends that the school obtain outside expertise in curriculum and development.

Since August 2006 Nativity faculty and administrators have been working with Rubicon Atlas, an online curriculum mapping software program, to archive and map the schoolwide curriculum. This process has continued each year, and with the support of a technical consultant, the school has made significant progress. In 2008-2009, Atlas program staff was requested to incorporate the ESLRs as part of the software so that teachers can begin to identify which ESLRs are being addressed in each learning unit. Nativity also received a $30,000 grant from the Ackerman Foundation to perform an assessment of the school’s math and science programs. However, the school needs to continue to devote a more long-term and sustained effort at overall curriculum development and assessment.

3. The Committee recommends that the school develop and maintain a more comprehensive professional development program.

At the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year, Nativity designated a faculty member to serve as the coordinator for professional development (CPD), who continues to seek both in-house and off-site professional development opportunities. A recent and significant professional development effort was a two-year (2006-07 and 2007-08) program to help faculty understand how to more effectively teach and assess student writing. Professional development for 2008-2009 has focused on the school’s WASC Self-Study with five of eight faculty members serving on a WASC visiting committee at other schools. Professional development for teachers remains a critical need.

4. The Committee recommends that the school obtain a larger and more practical facility.

Since the Initial Visit, Nativity Prep has purchased additional property adjacent to its current site. The purchase has added 5,000 square feet of outdoor space for parking and outdoor student recreational activities, and 1,000 square feet of indoor office space. Two additional buildings on the school site, formerly used for parking and storage, have been transformed into additional office space, a meeting/conference room, and a 1,300 square foot computer and science lab. The school recently contracted with a local landscaping company to perform monthly maintenance and upkeep of the campus. Nativity Prep has also begun a capital campaign for an entirely new school campus to be constructed on the current site. The campaign would raise funds for a facility that will double the current 6,000 square feet of indoor space and add an additional 12,000 square feet of outdoor space. However, due to the current nationwide economic crisis, the school’s Board voted in March 2009 to suspend the start of construction for at least another year.

5. The Committee recommends that the students actively, and more consistently, engage in the use of technology in the instructional program.

The addition of the computer and science lab has allowed teachers to more effectively manage whole-class, computer-based projects and assignments, including word-processing, Internet-based research, and teacher-generated PowerPoint presentations. A more sustained effort to integrate technology into the curriculum remains a critical schoolwide need.

6. The Committee recommends that the school increase teacher retention in order to increase the level of faculty experience.

In 2007-2008 the Board and principal ratified a teacher salary schedule with a starting teacher salary base that corresponds to the salary schedules for San Diego private schools, and is higher than other local Catholic schools. As a result of the new salary schedule five of six (83%) of the experience teaching faculty returned for the 2007-08 school year. A more focused and sustained effort to retain teachers remains a schoolwide need.

7. The Committee recommends that the school resolve issues of liability, insurance, and related legal issues associated with the mentoring program.

All matters concerning liability, insurance, and related legal issues associated with the mentoring program have been addressed and resolved.

Nativity Prep Academy has created a Schoolwide Action Plan that focuses on improving student learning and student achievement. Through the WASC Self-Study process the school has investigated and analyzed the areas critical for improved student achievement of the schoolwide student outcomes. The Self-Study yielded consensus among focus groups and stakeholders regarding four major areas for improvement: faculty, curriculum, facilities, and finances. The Action Plan includes three goals: improve teacher retention, establish a comprehensive professional development plan, and establish a comprehensive teacher evaluation process. These goals correspond to the major critical needs identified by the school.

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Chapter III: Self-Study Process

GRAD-AT-GRAD STATEMENT: EXPECTED SCHOOLWIDE LEARNING RESULTS

“The mission of Nativity Prep Academy is to provide a Catholic/Christian, college-prep, middle-school education to underserved students from Southeast San Diego. In partnership with our families, we are committed to each student’s total development—academic, social, physical, spiritual, and emotional by emphasizing serious study and personal & social responsibility.”

A graduate of Nativity Prep is…

  1. Academically prepared; he or she
    • Develops as an independent learner with intrinsic motivation
    • Achieves grade-level proficiency in all core subjects—i.e. math, language arts, science, and social studies
    • Applies content and skills from academic areas across the curriculum
    • Demonstrates academic honesty
    • Applies a working knowledge of age-appropriate technology and research skills
    • Practices and applies sound listening, speaking, and writing skills in all academic areas
  2. Socially aware; he or she
    • Demonstrates respect for self, peers, teachers, parents, and all others at school and outside of school
    • Presents himself or herself with confidence and respect—e.g. firm handshake, proper posture, eye-to-eye contact
    • Demonstrates an awareness of community needs and participates actively in meeting those needs
    • Has good/effective communication skills
    • Takes responsibility for his or her actions and choices, and where and when applicable, accepts consequences for his or her actions and choices
    • Demonstrates an awareness of, and respect for, one’s own and others’ “physical space”
    • Demonstrates an appreciation for teamwork and proper sportsmanship
  3. Physically sound; he or she
    • Has experienced or participated in all areas of his or her physical education—recess, physical education classes, and interscholastic team sports
    • Demonstrates respect for his or her own body, including food choices and nutritional practices, physical activity and exercise, and anatomy and sexuality
    • Demonstrates self-awareness for and a lifelong commitment to, physical health
    • Meets the minimal requirements for the President’s Challenge for each grade
  4. Spiritually focused; he or she
    • Demonstrates an awareness of the beliefs, practices, and values of the Catholic faith
    • Understands and is able to evaluate his or her own religious faith, vis-a-vis the Catholic faith
    • Recognizes and respects the beliefs, practices, and values of other faiths
    • Demonstrates a growing compassion and concern for others, with a focus on social justice
  5. Emotionally developing; he or she
    • Responds in an emotionally appropriate manner to a range of people and situations
    • Demonstrates a self-awareness of the range of emotions and can correspondingly apply this understanding—i.e. can exercise self-control

Following the 2006 initial visit, the school’s first goal was to articulate its expected schoolwide learning goals. A four-month process of ESLR articulation yielded an impressive list of personal, social, and academic attributes and skills that the parent community hoped their children would learn and be able to demonstrate. This draft became the working template for Nativity’s “Graduate-at-Graduation,” or “Grad-at-Grad” statement, which was completed by the full-time teaching staff. The Board of Trustees and student representatives also had an opportunity to review and ratify the ESLRs. All ten full-time teachers played a significant role in coordinating the Self-Study. At the start of the 2007-2008 school year grade-level leadership teams were formed to begin the extensive work of the written report. Beginning in the 2008-2009 school year, the school conducted WASC-related surveys with a number of stakeholders, including parents, students, graduates, mentors, and teachers. The school also conducted a one-year, formative evaluation study of its math and science programs under the guidance of an assessment team from the University of San Diego Center for Non-Profit Research. The study was funded by a grant from the Ackerman Foundation. Throughout the 2008-2009 school year the principal and teaching faculty worked as a committee of the whole to gather and analyze data, write and edit the Self-Study narratives, and discuss the schoolwide critical needs for the Action Plan.

The Nativity Prep Academy Self-Study accurately reflects the school’s profile and instructional program. Examples of student work provide evidence that students are learning, although the school has identified a need to devote additional effort to curriculum development as it relates to assessment of the ESLRs. The Visiting Committee agrees that Nativity’s Action Plan has correctly identified critical growth areas, and that the school has accomplished the five parameters of the Self-Study:

  1. All stakeholders, including parents, teachers, staff, and Board of Trustees were in involved in at least some part of preparing Nativity Prep’s WASC Self-Study.
  2. Articulation of Nativity’s schoolwide learning results included all major stakeholders. Students recite the ESLR statements each day as a class before departing for lunch and recess. This daily recitation familiarizes all students with the general ESLR concepts and expectations.
  3. Nativity Prep assesses the school program and its impact on student learning using standardized tests, semester exams, grade-point averages, student awards, and the collection of follow-up data on the school’s graduates.
  4. Among the school’s identified areas for growth, Nativity Prep has developed Action Plan goals around three of the most critical growth areas including teacher retention, professional development, and teacher evaluation. Each goal of the Action Plan includes action steps, identifies needed resources, names persons responsible, and establishes timelines.
  5. Each Action Plan goal is monitored through assessment steps and the reporting of progress to stakeholders.
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Chapter IV: Quality of the School’s Program

A. ORGANIZATION FOR STUDENT LEARNING

A1. School Purpose

To what extent has the school established a clear statement of purpose that reflects the beliefs and philosophy of the institution?

When the school first began, the statement of philosophy used in another NM school was utilized for the initial teacher handbook and other materials. The statement, which is informally worded, remained in place for several years. When the Board developed the Strategic Plan of 2006, they developed a more formal statement of philosophy. For the Self-Study, the faculty preferred to use the older, less formal philosophy statement because it was more familiar and it had been used in the development of the ESLRs. Although both statements of philosophy are clearly articulated and incorporate the same values, it is important for the school to integrate the two statements into one statement that will be consistent in all publications and uses. In crafting the integrated formal statement of philosophy into one statement, the school needs to use more formal language that is educationally and theologically based. The school has clearly articulated statements of mission and vision. The Board of Trustees approved the Mission and Vision Statements in their final form in 2005. Both are included in the Strategic Plan of 2006, along with the more formal philosophy. The school has recognized the need to operate under one plan, and is integrating the strategic plan into the Schoolwide Action Plan of the Self-Study. Integrating the two statements of philosophy into one would be a logical extension.

All three statements, along with the ESLRs, are in the Faculty-Staff Handbook. The Mission Statement and ESLRs are also in the Parent/Student Handbook and were presented formally for the first time at Back-to-School Night in October of 2008. In the 2009-2010 school year, the Vision Statement and Philosophy will also be included in the Parent-Student Handbook. The Mission Statement is used in various public relations pieces designed to solicit funding, tutors and mentors.

To what extent is the purpose defined further by the adopted schoolwide learning results that form the basis of the educational program for every student?

The school has a clearly articulated statement of expected schoolwide learning results, entitled ““Grad-at-Grad,” to indicate the expectation that these results will describe their graduates at the time of graduation from Nativity Prep Academy. The Grad-at-Grad statement was developed through a thorough process involving all stakeholders and is firmly based in the Mission Statement. The Grad-at-Grad statement is posted in every classroom and is recited, in the major stem form, by the students each day. The school schedule includes a weekly advisory period that has focused this year on a student-centered process of reflection and assessment based on the ESLRs. In addition, the staff has begun the process of designing effective instruction and assessment in each ESLR category to be incorporated in each of the unit plans for each content-area curriculum map. The school plans to continue efforts to construct an effective and schoolwide process of ESLR assessment.

A2. Governance Criterion

To what extent does the governing authority adopt policies that are consistent with the school purpose and the support the achievement of the expected schoolwide learning results for the school?

The school has a ““working” Board of Trustees whose members serve as liaisons with the three main departments of the school: Program (School), Advancement (Development) and Operations (Business and Finance). The directors of these departments report directly to the Board. The Board performs all powers and duties over corporate affairs imposed on them by law and by the Board’s by-laws, especially the responsibility of preserving the mission, fiscal soundness, and successful performance of the school. The Board Chair is currently serving as Acting President on a part-time, volunteer basis as called for by the corporate by-laws, a relationship which has worked effectively. Nonetheless, moving forward, the school sees the need to hire a full-time President, to be called the Executive Director, who would oversee the three main departments of the school. The Board also sees the need to hire an Executive Director, when finances allow, to help transition the Board from the day-to-day operation of the school to the fundraising aspect.

The Board of Trustees reviews, amends and ratifies all policies and procedures in the three main departments of the school, as well as in the mentoring and graduate support programs. The Self-Study indicates some concern about consistency, which is leading the school to consider adding a parent and a teacher as ex officio members of the Board to ameliorate this concern. In the meantime, although the Board makes policy, a concerted effort is made to be open to the needs of the school as expressed by the faculty, administration, and parents. Having these stakeholders on the Board would be yet another strategy to enhance the responsiveness of the Board.

To what extent does the governing authority delegate implementation of these policies to the professional staff?

AND

To what extent does the governing authority monitor results?

The Board of Trustees delegates the implementation of policies to the three full-time directors of Program, Advancement, and Operations (see IV.A.1, above), as well as to the directors of the Mentoring Program and the Graduate Support Program. The program directors report to both the Principal and the designated Board members. All policies and procedures that guide the work of these five areas are reviewed, amended and ratified by the appropriate committee of the Board of Trustees. Board members serve as members of standing committees in these major areas and/or are designated as liaisons for them. These Board members meet regularly with the directors of their areas to assure effective implementation and monitoring of Board policies. In addition, the liaisons report bi-monthly to the rest of the Board about proceedings within those departments. The directors also serve as ex officio members of the Board, to further facilitate communication, implementation and monitoring. The Board Chair, in his role as Acting President, also meets formally at least once a month with the three main department directors.

A3. School Leadership Criterion

To what extent does the school leadership make decisions to facilitate actions that focus the energies of the school on student achievement of the expected school-side learning results?

The school leadership is broadly based, and delegation is pervasive throughout the structure. All three directors hire staff who assist them effectively in fulfilling the mission of the school. Specifically with regard to focusing on the ESLRs, the principal, while ultimately responsible for their achievement, delegates the implementation of the ESLRs to the teaching staff. To focus on student achievement, full-time faculty and staff, grade-level teachers, and Principal/individual teacher meetings are held weekly. Department meetings occur monthly and teacher-parent conferences occur quarterly. The Principal communicates weekly by E-mail to all full and part-time faculty and staff and is available to all of them, as well as students and parents as needed. The results of these strategies are the improvement of instruction and the enhancement of student achievement.

To what extent does the school leadership empower staff?

The school leadership, in the person of the Principal, delegates administrative duties to the staff to the extent that all teachers hold some kind of administrative position, either as a director, coordinator, or assistant director. This empowers the staff to assume leadership in the school program both in and out of the classroom and engenders a sense of ownership, community, collaboration and mutual trust.

To what extent does the school leadership encourage commitment, participation and shared accountability for student learning?

The school leadership, specifically the Principal, fosters the commitment, participation and shared accountability for student learning among the entire faculty and staff through the extensive delegation of duties and the frequent meetings, E-mails, conferences and teacher observations. The Principal expects a high level of commitment, participation and accountability from the faculty, but in doing so, leads by example and is supportive of faculty efforts in discipline and instruction and faculty needs for resources.

A4. Staff Criterion

To what extent are the school leadership and staff qualified for their assigned responsibilities?

All three directors are well qualified for their positions, largely by virtue of past work experience. The Principal holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy, a Master’s degree in English, and a Master’s degree in Education in secondary curriculum and instruction. The other nine teachers hold at least a Bachelor’s degree, with three holding a Master’s and four a teaching credential. Specialized needs are met through the services of a reading specialist, hired with Title I funds, and three counselors employed part-time through Catholic Charities. Furthermore, teachers participate in professional development both on and off site.

To what extent are the school leadership and staff committed to the school’s purpose?

The level of commitment of leadership and staff – from Board members to volunteer tutors – is phenomenal. With higher expectations, greater challenges, and less compensation than other institutions, the leadership and staff at Nativity Prep are sacrificial and passionate in their devotion to the students, families and mission of the school. Unfortunately, the extraordinary level of commitment gives rise in part to the challenge of long-term sustainability of a core faculty and is rightfully included as a critical area of growth in the Action Plan.

To what extent do the school leadership and staff encourage ongoing professional development that promotes student learning?

The level of commitment of the school to ongoing professional development is exemplary. Beginning with a two-week summer orientation focusing on preparation for the school year and team building, the teaching staff is further required to participate in two off-site classroom visits at area schools annually, two quarterly on-site classroom observations, service on a WASC visiting team once a year, one off-site conference or workshop annually, and a curriculum mapping activity seven times a year. In addition, teachers new to the school are sent to a three-day conference on one or more instructional competencies during which they network with teachers from other NM schools. Teachers who are new to the profession are sent to Marian College in Indiana for a weeklong teacher prep course focusing on essentials for first-year teachers. The Board, the Principal, the Director of Advancement, the Graduate Support Director, and the Mentoring Director also attend at least one retreat or conference a year, ranging from one to three days each, in an area pertinent to their roles.

Despite this commitment, the school sees professional development as an area of critical growth. The school sees a need for a more systematic approach to schoolwide professional development, built on common needs of teachers, driven by assessment of student achievement, and based on current research and best practices. The school sees a need, particularly in the area of classroom management, for beginning teacher support. The school hopes that such a program will motivate teachers and students alike, improve instruction and learning, and address the problem of faculty attrition.

A5 School Purpose Criterion

To what extent does the school have a safe, healthy, nurturing environment that reflects the school’s purpose?

Despite the school’s location in a poor urban area with a high crime rate, the school provides a safe, healthy and nurturing environment for their students. Incidents of crime on campus have been after-hours only. Emergency procedures for fire, earthquake and lockdown are clearly stated in the Parent/Student Handbook, although the school feels that they need to be practiced more frequently. Clear procedures are in place for the dispensing of medication to students and for the handling of student illness. The students and staff themselves keep the school clean and the strict adherence to rules and procedures promotes an orderly and comfortable environment. Snacks and meals are nutritious; junk food is not allowed on campus. The Honor Code, recited daily by the students, promotes an atmosphere of respect and integrity. The extended school day and extended school year facilitate the offering of support services that enhance the high expectations of the academic program. The school’s purpose – to promote the total development of the under-served student – is reflected magnificently in the school’s environment. The end result of the cooperative efforts of leadership, faculty, parents, support staff, volunteers, and students is the creation of a schoolwide college-bound culture.

To what extent is the school environment characterized by a respect for differences, trust, caring, professionalism, support, and high expectations for each student?

The school’s environment is characterized by a concern for the total development of the student. The school’s organizational structure, meetings, professional development of faculty, rules and procedures – in short, everything about the school – is geared to promote student success in meeting the high academic and personal expectations put forth by the school. Respect for differences is served by weekly grade-level meetings of teachers to track progress of students, the mentoring program, tutoring program, elective offerings, sports, counselors, educational testing, reading specialists, etc. Trust is promoted through the Honor Code. Teacher support of students inside and outside of the classroom builds the feeling of caring for them and their families. An attendance rate of more than 98% and the frequent return of graduates attest to the happiness of the students. In addition to the above, the school provides a daily study hall and weekly advisory period to support the students in their development. The faculty maintains an exceptionally high level of commitment and professionalism as noted earlier and thus sets an example for the students as they strive to meet the high expectations the school puts forth for them.

A6. Reporting Student Progress Criterion

To what extent do the school leadership and staff regularly assess student progress toward accomplishing the school’s expected schoolwide learning results?

AND

To what extent do the school leadership and staff report student progress to the rest of the school community?

By means of a detailed chart, the school has thoroughly accomplished, analyzed and presented the assessment and reporting of student progress. Although the school leadership and staff still see further development of ESLR-based assessment a critical area of growth for the school, they have begun well the process of analyzing current assessment according to the major categories of the ““Grad-at-Grad” ESLR statement. Types of assessment included are grades, standardized test results (two different tests, one of them pre- and post- evaluations), high school acceptances, anecdotal and observational evidence regarding development, attendance records, student reflections and self-evaluations, student and parent surveys, and tutorials. Types of reporting include report cards, progress reports, awards assemblies, public relations brochures including the school’s ““Report Card,” grade-level teachers’ meetings, and parent-teacher conferences.

A7. School Improvement Process Criterion

To what extent does the school leadership facilitate school improvement that is driven by plans of action that will enhance quality learning for all students?

The school leadership has facilitated school improvement by utilizing three major plans of action, namely, the response to the major recommendations of the initial WASC visiting committee that advanced the school to candidacy for accreditation in February 2006; the first formal Strategic Plan, completed in the fall of 2006, and the Schoolwide Action Plan put forth in the WASC Self-Study completed in the spring of 2009. All of these plans have focused on the enhancement of quality learning for the students. Ongoing work from the first WASC visit in 2006 and the four major elements of the Strategic Plan of 2006 have been incorporated into the Schoolwide Action Plan of 2009 developed through the Self-Study Process, so that the school is now operating under one plan of action which focuses on student learning. This Action Plan defines more clearly a comprehensive system of accountability and implementation in meeting each of the WASC Action Plan goals. The school clearly sees the need to provide ongoing evidence of progress on the Action Plan to a variety of stakeholders.

To what extent does the school leadership have school community support and involvement?

The school leadership has the thorough and complete support of the school community—Board, faculty and staff, students and alumni, parents and benefactors. All stakeholders were involved in the Self-Study process and are committed to the Action Plan.

To what extent does the school leadership effectively guide the work of the school?

The school leadership is very effective in guiding the work of the school. The hallmark of the leadership is the passion and commitment to the mission and philosophy of the school, which pervades the guidance of the rest of the school community. The structures in place for governance and leadership further enhance the effectiveness of the school leadership.

To what extent does the school leadership provide for accountability through monitoring of the schoolwide action plan?

Based on past performance in following up on the initial WASC recommendations and on the elements of the 2006 Strategic Plan, the school will be accountable for the Action Plan. The plan stipulates persons such as the Principal and specific committees as those responsible for the steps of the plan. Assessment of success should be made more specific when the school revises the plan for final review.

Areas of Strength

  • Clearly articulated, well-publicized, integrated statements of mission, vision, philosophy and expected schoolwide learning results that were developed by all stakeholders and that impact student learning
  • A committed, competent and supportive Board of Trustees
  • An administrative structure that facilitates an effective functioning of the school and ongoing, two-way communication with the Board
  • A highly committed Principal who leads by example and empowers the staff to assume leadership in the school program thereby engendering a sense of ownership, community, collaboration and mutual trust
  • A dedicated, hardworking faculty who are highly committed to serving students inside and out of the classroom
  • Exemplary efforts in the area of professional development
  • A schoolwide, highly successful system of support services and strategies which provide a safe, nurturing, challenging and supportive environment for student learners

Areas for Growth

  • Establish a schoolwide process of assessment for the ESLRs that integrates specific curricular and instructional goals into the assessment process
  • Hire a full-time President (executive director) to transition the Board’s energies from operations to fundraising
  • In conjunction with the hiring of the President, examine the role of the Board in the day-to-day functioning of the school, the adoption of policies, and the possibility of a parent and/or teacher as ex officio members of the Board
  • Address the sustainability of at least a core faculty group in the face of the extraordinary level of commitment asked for and received from the staff
  • Develop a more systematic approach to schoolwide professional development, built on the common needs of teachers, driven by assessment of student achievement, and based on current research and best practices, that will motivate teachers and students alike, improve differentiated instruction and learning, address the emerging technological and literacy needs of the students, and address the problem of faculty attrition
  • Strengthen assessment step of the Action Plan

Evidence

  • 2008-2009 Organizational Chart
  • 2008-2009 Rules and Procedures
  • Board Bylaws
  • Board Member Interviews
  • Faculty/Staff Handbook
  • Faculty/Staff Roster and Data
  • Faculty/Staff Survey
  • Leadership Team Interviews
  • Newsletter: Nativity News
  • Parent/Student Handbook
  • Parent/Student Scholarship Agreement
  • Public Relations Brochures (to solicit funds and to recruit mentors and tutors)
  • S-T-R-E-T-C-H Rules (student discipline policies)
  • Teacher Contract
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Chapter IV: Quality of the School’s Program

B: CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION

B1. What Students Learn Criterion

To what extent does the school provide a challenging, coherent, and relevant curriculum for each student that fulfills the school’s purpose and results in student achievement of the expected schoolwide learning results through successful completion of any course of study offered?

The Nativity Prep curriculum is designed to prepare students for success in high school, college and life – academically, socially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally (areas of the schoolwide learning results). The day-to-day focus in the classroom is on the academic development now as learners and on their academic preparedness as they look ahead to high school and college. The result is a curriculum which is challenging and that fulfills the school’s stated purpose. Each student is responsible for seven subjects each week, in addition to the non-graded elective. The seven include the core classes of integrated language arts, mathematics, science and social studies and the additional three of religion, art and physical education. Content for the core classes is aligned with the California content standards. To enhance the relevance of the curriculum, in all classes, reading and writing is stressed, because most of the students have English as a second language. As for coherence of the curriculum, all content-area curricula are organized by learning units, which include an essential question or questions, a list of content, standards and benchmarks, outcomes, assessment(s) and resources. Use of Atlas mapping software enables teachers to access data and information in any unit from the previous years’ maps and to use these in designing or adapting current-year units.

A schoolwide process for assessment of the ESLRs is part of school’s Action Plan. Successful completion of any course of study requires the student to achieve an annual passing grade of 70% (C-) or better in all seven graded content areas. In the individual descriptions of the core subject areas, it is apparent that the teaching staff endeavors to vary learning activity, assessments and experiences to make the classes at once relevant and challenging. For the student who needs additional help, tutoring is available. The weekly advisory period enables students to reflect on their progress toward mastery of the subject matter and achievement of the ESLRs. For the past six years the school has benefited from the generosity of a volunteer IT manager who procures and services information technology, including computers, printers, routers, software, phones, etc. for both the school and the students’ homes. The recent addition of a computer lab, and the presence of five computers in each classroom, has enabled the teachers to integrate technology more fully into the curriculum. The faculty feels, however, that this is an area in which more growth is necessary; they are committed in the Action Plan to broadening the range of computer-based learning for the students.

B2. How Students Learn Criterion

To what extent does the professional staff use research-based knowledge about teaching and learning?

AND

To what extent does the professional staff design and implement a variety of learning experiences that actively engage students at a high level of learning consistent with the school’s purpose and expected schoolwide learning results?

The four teachers who are responsible for the instruction in the core content areas have earned their California teaching credential within at least one of the content areas that they teach. Staff members are required to attend at least one off-site professional development event each year to enhance their knowledge of their content areas. Utilizing what they have learned, the staff has introduced a wide variety of learning approaches and activities as well as creative ways to display student work, even online. As a result of a professional development program with the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership, the school established a successful goal of writing across the curriculum at all grade levels.

The staff provides students with two thirty-minute periods each week for sustained silent reading and writing. Integrated Language Arts utilizes the Readers’ Workshop and Writers’ Workshop techniques, which are based on brain-based research. Mathematics has benefited from a math-and-science assessment grant from the Ackerman Foundation, which has led teachers to create a more student-centered approach to learning, including learning partners, discussion, and manipulatives in addition to conventional operations and notations used to solve problems. Science has put a focus on the real-world applications of classroom work. The department has developed a program rich in field trips, science-based camping trips, and science fairs to enhance student learning of science. Social Studies has focused on developing the study skills, such as note-taking strategies, that students will need in their future education. Religion has assisted students in their spiritual development as well as their understanding of Christianity and other world religions. Art utilizes the computer lab for whole-class instruction across grade levels and the website Artsonia for displaying student work. Physical education focuses on developing personal health and fitness in the students, using the Presidential Fitness Challenge as one approach. Overall, it seems that the teaching staff has reached well beyond the confines of Nativity Prep to glean best practices for the improvement of instruction and the enhancement of student learning. As a result, the school’s stated purpose of preparing students for high school and fostering their total development is met at a high level of excellence.

B3. How Assessment is Used Criterion

To what extent is teacher and student use of assessment frequent and integrated into the teaching/learning process? (a) To what extent are the assessment results the basis for measurement of each student’s progress toward the expected schoolwide learning results? (b) To what extent are the assessment results the basis for regular evaluation and improvement of curriculum and instruction? (c) To what extent are the assessment results the basis for the allocation of resources?

The school uses a variety of formative and summative assessments to measure student progress toward the ESLRs. In the classroom, achievement and progress are measured and reported for each academic quarter across a range of specific academic skills and concepts, typically using a variety of teacher- and student-generated criterion-referenced assessments. Results of these frequent quizzes, homework assignments, etc., enable the teacher to adjust instruction to enhance learning. At the end of each semester, a final summative exam is administered in five of the seven content areas and a summative reflection essay is utilized in art and physical education, enabling the staff to measure student progress toward the ESLRs.

In addition, the school utilizes the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in a pre- and post-year fashion as well as the California Achievement Test (CAT-6) to assess the individual student’s performance on a norm-referenced standardized test. The data from these assessments has provided the school with excellent curricular information, which they have analyzed astutely.

The assessment of the math and science program under the auspices of the Ackerman Grant also provided the school with invaluable information that directly affected instruction and allocation of resources.

The Self-Study provides a thorough description of the variety of assessments used in each content area, indicating that teachers are utilizing assessments not only to measure student progress, but also to inform and shape their teaching. Nonetheless, the faculty states that they need to utilize standardized test results more effectively in mapping curriculum and planning lessons.

Two exemplary efforts beyond the classroom involved reaching out to high schools for feedback. In the case of mathematics, an informal discussion with administrators and teachers from high schools attended by NPA’s graduates motivated the math teachers to return to an emphasis on the basic skills of mathematics and pre-algebra, rather than trying to push students into algebra before developing their foundational knowledge. This decision led to new standards-aligned pre-algebra textbooks and new curriculum for mathematics, an example of assessment impacting resources. In the second example, the PE teachers revamped their curriculum after interviewing a 28-year veteran PE teacher from a public school, combined with elements derived from the program of two diocesan high schools. These efforts indicate a willingness on the part of the faculty to assess not only their students’ progress, but their own instruction as well.

Areas of Strength

  • A strong teaching staff who have developed a hands-on curriculum, utilizing a variety of learning activities, assessments and technology
  • The science program, which provides a multi-faceted approach to real-world application of student learning through the use of labs and overnight field trips
  • Use of field trips in various content areas, enabling students to learn outside the classroom
  • The Atlas curriculum-mapping software that has provided a good beginning framework for curriculum development
  • Consistent cross-grade level approach to curriculum and instruction in Integrated Language Arts
  • The formative, comprehensive study of the math and science program conducted by the research team at the University of San Diego, which has provided the school with the first formal, schoolwide assessment for curriculum and instruction
  • Willingness of teaching staff to seek and utilize input from other schools, including high schools, for the improvement of instruction and student learning

Areas for Growth

  • Develop a more systematic approach to schoolwide professional development, built on the common needs of teachers, driven by assessment of student achievement, and based on current research and best practices, that will motivate teachers and students alike, improve differentiated instruction and learning, address the emerging technological and literacy needs of the students, and address the problem of faculty attrition
  • Assess the effectiveness and feasibility of continuing to teach large-group, mixed grade, single-gender classes in physical education and art
  • Integrate technology more effectively into the curriculum for all content areas, and provide professional development to support this integration
  • Establish a schoolwide curriculum assessment process, including a process for measuring student progress toward the ESLRs

EVIDENCE

  • Artsonia Website
  • Assessment Data
  • Atlas Rubion Website
  • Classroom Observation
  • Curriculum Maps
  • Faculty Interviews
  • Faculty Lesson Plans
  • Professional Development Plan
  • Student Interviews
  • Student Progress Reports
  • Student Work
  • Textbooks
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Chapter IV: Quality of the School’s Program

C. SUPPORT FOR STUDENT PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC GROWTH

C1. Student Connectedness

To what extent are students connected to a system of support services, activities, and opportunities at the school and within the community to meet the challenges of the curricular/co-curricular program in order to achieve the expected schoolwide learning results?

The well-conceived and intentional nature of Nativity’s student support services is one of the highlights of the school’s programming. In the academic area they provide a teacher-student tutoring period for one hour each week. Additionally there is a volunteer tutoring program in place for students as part of the extended school day. The extended school day provides opportunities for improving student reading and writing skills. The school also employs a part-time Reading Specialist using NCLB Title I funds. Students participate in the Union-Tribune’s Newspapers in Education program and a Math Field Day hosted by a neighboring Catholic high school. The school sponsors a Computers-in-the-Home program, which has provided 40 computers to students and families.

The school provides students opportunities for social interaction and growth through specialty clubs such as Yearbook, Newspaper, ASB, Science Club, etc. The school also sponsors dances to encourage social growth. Spiritual growth is encouraged through prayers at a weekly school assembly, twice monthly mass, religion classes, class retreats, and community service projects by each grade level. The local parish priest and a priest serving on the Board of Trustees respond to pastoral emergencies as needed. A staff member is tasked with the campus ministry program. Presently this individual coordinates grade level retreats, masses, community service projects, and student reflections on their community service. In classrooms, the students observe the liturgical seasons and holy days.

The physical needs of students are supported by the participation in the Free and Reduced Meal Program of the San Diego City Schools. Students participate in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge. Students may choose to participate in seasonal interscholastic team sports through the San Diego Parochial Sports League. The YMCA of San Diego County provides 30 scholarships (1/2 the student body) to attend week-long summer camps at Camp Marston or Camp Raintree in Julian or Camp Surf in Imperial Beach. Another 10 students attend a week-long sports day camp at St. Augustine High School.

Emotional and psychological support for students is provided by three part-time counselors who are on campus three days a week. The counselors make social services referrals as needed. They also inform the school administration of student and family physical and material needs (e.g. food, clothing, home furnishings). The counselors also work cooperatively with teachers to improve student self-concept, behavior, and performance. These counselors are provided by Catholic Charities. The AMIGOS mentoring program also provides trained adult mentors to students.

Lastly, the Graduate Support Program helps students with the admissions and financial aid requests to obtain proper high school placement. Throughout high school, this program continues formal and informal contact with former students. Nativity alumni can return to Nativity and participate in the extended school day, receive tutoring, and obtain assistance with admissions and financial aid guidance for college admission. The school also offers a seven-week SAT preparation course for alumni.

Nativity’s support for students’ personal, spiritual, and academic growth is comprehensive in its breadth and depth. They are to be commended for their effort to address the whole student in their programming.

C2. Parent/Community Involvement

To what extent does the school leadership employ a wide range of strategies to ensure that parental and community involvement is integral to the school’s established support system for students?

Although parents pay only a nominal monthly fee of $25.00, Nativity has high expectations for parental participation. It begins with the Parent-Student Scholarship Agreement, which delineates expectations. Parents must attend a Back-to-School Night and three (3) parent-teacher conferences each year. The school publishes a weekly newsletter for parents and it is sent home in a special envelope with other school/classroom information. Home visits are made to all incoming 6th grade families. They also meet with 8th grade parents and students to clarify expectations for high school and issues around admissions, financial aid, and academic programs and planning.

The Parent Committee is the parent organization of the school. It sponsors three to four schoolwide social events for students and their families each year. They meet monthly and provide volunteer support for some school activities. They also do fundraising and sponsor a Mother’s Day raffle and celebration, which has generated $10,000 for the school.

The Friends of Nativity is an organization of benefactors, whose efforts center on fundraising, raising community awareness of the school, and obtaining community resources in support of the school.

The school has developed an extensive network of community resources and support. The YMCA provides 30 week-long summer camp scholarships. St. Augustine High School provides 10 week-long day-camp scholarships. AmeriCorps National Service Program currently provides two teachers and initially provided seven teachers at the school’s start-up in 2001. University of San Diego has provided consulting services to the school and has agreed to subsidize 60% of the tuition for AmeriCorps teachers to complete their teaching credentials. Through a partnership with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps of San Diego, tutors have been obtained for students. In partnership with a local non-profit called Reality Changers, support, resources, consulting and training are being provided for the personnel directing the school’s Graduate Support Program. Working with the city school district, Nativity obtained funding (NCLB Title I) for a part-time Reading Specialist and daily funding for a Free and Reduced Lunch Program. The school’s relationship with Catholic Charities provides part-time counseling support three days a week by three counselors.

Nativity’s marshalling of community support and resources in the eight short years of their existence is impressive. The school is to be commended for its outreach to community resources in support of its students.

Areas of Strength

  • A well-established and extensive Graduate Support Program for its alumni
  • A well-established, schoolwide mentoring program
  • Annual off-site trips for science that support students’ real world understanding of academic concepts and content in science and also foster social development
  • A multi-purpose computer/science lab that engages students in whole-class learning for a variety of projects and activities across the content areas
  • An active student government coordinates a variety of social events on-site and off-site throughout the year
  • Grade-level community service projects support students’ understanding of faith in action, of social justice, and of being “persons for others”
  • The growing support and involvement of its parent constituency and the beginnings of a firmly and actively established Parent Committee

Areas for Growth

  • Discern a broader and more comprehensive program for parent involvement and parent education
  • Consider hiring a full-time director for its Graduate Support Program
  • Consider using vocational interest inventories and guidance
  • Help students and their families obtain appropriate social services available in the community

EVIDENCE

  • AMIGOS Mentoring Handbook
  • Associated Student Body Interview
  • Attendance Records
  • Artsonia Website
  • Classroom Observation
  • Community Service Activities
  • Discipline Reports
  • Interview with Counselor
  • Interview Volunteer Director for Tutoring
  • Observation of Co- and Extra-curricular Activities
  • Parent Committee Interview
  • Parent Survey
  • Safety Records
  • Student Survey
  • Yearbook
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Chapter IV: Quality of the School’s Program

D. RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

D1. Resources

To what extent do the governing authority and the school execute responsible resource planning for the future?

Allocation Decisions

Limited resources force the school to make decisions in implementation of ESLR achievement. Resources are allocated through the budget. Priority is given to the expenses directly impacting student learning (the salaries of school employees, textbooks, supplies, and programs).

Each year, beginning in January, under the direction of the Finance Subcommittee of the Board, the budgeting process begins for the coming fiscal year (FY), which begins July 1st and ends June 30th each year. The directors of each of the major budget categories: Advancement (fundraising); Operations (business); Program (school); Mentoring; Facilities (new-site development); and Graduate Support submit to the Finance Subcommittee a draft of estimated expenses for the coming fiscal year for their respective budgets, based on actual and estimated costs for the current fiscal year.

Directors for each discrete budget category scrutinize each line item of the current FY budget and appeal to a variety of school constituencies in submitting proposed budgets, with every effort directed towards sustaining the school’s mission, focus on student learning, and the ESLRs.

The school program budget under the direction of the Principal undergoes careful discernment, with consideration given equally to the needs and requests of students, teachers (i.e., salaries, classroom, and instructional materials), parents, and to schoolwide initiatives and goals. Throughout January and February, and into the month of March, members of the Finance Committee meet with the directors for each of the budget categories/departments to discern final amounts for the budget. In March at the quarterly meeting of the Board, the Trustees ratify or defer a decision until further deliberations take place and finalize the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Typically, percentages of the overall budget (~$1.2 M) are allocated for each of the following categories/departments each year:

Program/School (including Mentoring and Graduate Support) 70%
Advancement/Fundraising 16%
Operations/Business 7%
New-Site Development 7%

The allocation for each of the above categories each year accommodates the majority of expenses for direct service to the students, and the overall budget rarely exceeds a cumulative increase of 5%. The 2008-2009 fiscal year budget (June – July) was available to the Visiting Committee during the Self-Study visit.

Practices

Accounting practices for the school adhere strictly to all legal, ethical, and financial guidelines—locally and federally—for non-profit corporations, under ongoing scrutiny from the Board of Trustees. Each year, the school undergoes an annual fiscal audit under the direction of an independent auditor, Douglas C. Griffin, & Associates. A copy of the most recent fiscal-year audit was available during the Self-Study visit in May. The school’s Business Manager maintains the accounting for and receipt of all income and expenses for the school through QuickBook Premiere accounting software. She submits monthly and quarterly budget performance reports to each respective program director (i.e., Principal, Director for Advancement, et al.) and to the Board representatives who serve on the Finance Committee. In addition, the Business Manager reconciles monthly donations/deposits with the Advancement Office to ensure that financial reporting is consistent between departments. The database software currently used by the Advancement Office is GiftMaker Pro (Blackbaud).

Facilities

In total, the campus has six separate buildings. The school facilities are on a 55-year lease at a cost of $1.00 per year. The current school site accommodates classroom space for a capacity enrollment of 60 students, which includes:

  • Designated classrooms for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, which content-area teachers share
  • Shared computer/science lab for all three grades
  • Outdoor playground
  • Three grade-designated student bathrooms
  • Two separate common eating areas
  • Small kitchen with storage for free/reduced lunch program and a food warmer
  • Office space for each credentialed teacher
  • Common faculty room/workroom
  • Common faculty bathroom
  • Advancement and Business offices are on-site, in residential property adjacent to the school campus

The long-term goals include a new facility to accommodate a greater number of students, with classrooms and parking and outdoor space better equipped for teachers and students and families alike. Although the capital campaign and construction have been postponed, they continue to move forward with the city on re-zoning and permits, and the design phase of the project. This is a critical area for growth within the Schoolwide Action Plan.

Light janitorial duties are performed by students, parent volunteers, and staff as part of community service. They are responsible for maintaining a clean and safe environment. Major repairs are done by outside licensed contractors.

Classrooms are equipped with fire extinguishers. These extinguishers are maintained by an independent company and inspected as required by law. Fire drills, earthquake drills, and lock downs have not been scheduled or conducted on a regular basis. They do not have any food or water stored for natural disasters. The administration recognizes emergency preparedness is an area for improvement.

Instructional Materials

An estimated 30% ($25K) of school costs are allocated each year for instructional materials, including materials and supplies for the interscholastic sports and physical education programs. The table below outlines specific annual allocations for each item or category, based on the current 2008-2009 fiscal-year budget.

Item Allocation per year % of School Budget
Textbooks $8,000 9%
Library/Reference Books $3,000 3%
Classroom Supplies $3,000 3%
Science & Math Supplies $7,000 8%
PE/Sports Equipment $4,400 5%
Totals $25,400 28%

Survey results from parents, students, and teachers indicate current materials available for instruction are adequate. There is a growing consensus among faculty to place a more significant focus on the allocation of resources for technology. They recognize the need to establish an adoption cycle for textbooks and other instructional materials.

Well-Qualified Staff

Over the past eight years, since opening in 2001, the budget for teachers’ salaries grew significantly. During the first three years, the school relied on beginning AmeriCorps teachers for instruction and administration. With the progressive annual increase in the number of qualified (i.e., credentialed) teachers, the budget has grown to accommodate four full-time, credentialed teachers, representing 40% of the teaching staff.

In 2005, the Board of Trustees established a salary schedule to assist in budgeting. With the support of the Board subcommitteee for Academics and Student Affairs, the administration researched teaching salaries for faculty at the local public and Catholic schools and established a base-salary and stipend scale for teachers. The salary schedule is not merit-based. Teachers are compensated for assuming additional administrative and/or coaching responsibilities. The school provides health, vision, and dental insurance for teachers. Teachers must arrange for their own retirement plans. Retaining a core faculty group for a longer tenure is a goal within the Schoolwide Action Plan. The consensus of the Self-Study participants is that teacher attrition is not a function of salary, but of the extended school day and life stage changes. In the past mentors have been assigned to first year teachers with an informal and collegial approach rather than a formalized program. The school has demonstrated the flexibility to change mentoring assignments as needed. Mentors will be assigned for the upcoming school year. The long-term goal is to hire and retain credentialed teachers for all full-time teaching positions, for longer periods of time. The school also expects to include each year a number of beginning AmeriCorps teachers to: help with ancillary administrative duties; serve as teaching assistants; and work as coaches. The primary reason is to maintain the spirit of volunteer service that defines the Nativity-Miguel Schools; it remains a necessity for financial reasons.

In summary, Nativity has the facilities, staff, and budget to support their current programs and activities. They have accounting practices in place that safeguard their assets. The facilities are safe, clean, and well maintained. They identified areas needing improvement, specifically a new, well-designed, multi-functional facility, a review and adoption cycle for textbooks and instructional materials, keeping the salary and stipend scale competitive with local schools as funding becomes available, retaining teachers for longer periods of time.

D2. Resource Planning Criterion

To what extent do the governing authority and the school execute responsible resource planning for the future?

Master Plan for Fundraising

During the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years, the Board of Trustees developed a five-year strategic plan, which included consensus gathering from all school stakeholders and provided a comprehensive framework for school improvements and fundraising. The school recognizes the need to integrate the strategic plan and the Schoolwide Action Plan. The Board monitors progress toward goals in the plan.

Within the 2006-11 strategic plan, the Advancement Plan calls for specific actions to meet philanthropic goals to ensure sustainability. It calls for a combination of donations from individual donors, corporations, and foundation grants. The fundraising plan, known as “60/60/60,” was created and implemented by the advancement team in collaboration with Tom Suddes of For Impact/The Suddes Group, a nationally known organization in non-profit fundraising. The plan is outlined below.

Nativity Prep Academy, 60/60/60 Fundraising Plan
Source Amount Expected Revenue
60 donors x $10,000 (Scholar’s Circle) =$600,000
60 donors x $5,000 (Dean’s List Circle) =$300,000
60 donors x $2,000 (Honor’s Circle) =$120,000
Donors <$2,000 x 155 donors =$80,000
Grants x 15 foundation/corp. grants =$100,000
TOTAL 350 donors/grants $1,200,000

Strategies to support the implementation of the above-mentioned plan include:

  • Annual Appeal Letters
  • Fall Appeal Letter
  • Holiday Appeal Letter with Christmas Card
  • Spring Newsletter/Appeal
  • Personal Appointments/Requests
  • Electronic Newsletter
  • Monthly Luncheons
  • Grants
  • Annual Golf Tournament
  • Presentations to Civic Groups
  • Nativity Prep “Breakfast for Champions”
  • Website Management

Nativity Prep currently does not publish an annual report of giving, but has incorporated this into its fundraising goals for 2009-2010. Several “high stakes” grants and fundraising events appear to have the ability to “make-or-break” the program.

Sustainable Future Funding

After subtracting the $300/student per year, which the parent must contribute (i.e., $25/mo) from the $1.2 million and dividing by 60 students, the annual cost per student is estimated to be $19,700. Other than endowment income, the entire budget is raised through benevolent giving, grants, and several large fundraising events.

Fundraising efforts include securing longer-term, sustainable funding, namely through planned giving and an endowment fund. The planned giving program, the “Legacy Society Fund,” is a specific category of funding offered to benefactors who include the school as a beneficiary in their wills. The goal is to secure five (5) individuals each year for planned giving.

The endowment fund is managed by the San Diego Foundation and currently valued at $450,000, representing a 40% loss since the economic downturn began. Its highest value was just over $750,000. The goal is to secure additional funding and to establish a $3M endowment. The school may use up to 10% of the endowment in an emergency, but never has done so. The Ackerman Foundation grant was a one-time award of $300,000 over a three year period and will not be renewed. The Ackerman Foundation has indicated they are open to a $25,000 grant to be renewed annually. A recent “Breakfast of Champions” doubled the list of perspective donors. This is their strategy for coping with the decrease in giving due to the economic downturn by increasing the number of potential donor contacts. They are increasing the asking from family foundations by using personal contact in the foundations. It is their goal to maintain in reserve five months of operating funds.

Marketing Strategies

Nativity makes a sustained effort to market the school to a variety of stakeholders. Among the many efforts made each year to ensure school sustainability, they focus most of their energy on recruiting for admissions and on increasing and sustaining the base of Board members, benefactors, and supporters. The following describes the efforts to ensure a committed and constant base for each group of stakeholders.

The school relies primarily on the parents and families of currently enrolled students for new-student recruitment. In the past three years, since establishing a reputation within the community, they received approximately twice the number (2x) of completed applications for admissions than openings. The following table shows the total number of initial requests for applications, subsequent number of fully completed applications, and number of acceptances for the past three years for all three grades combined.

Applicants for Initial Requests Completed Acceptances
2006-2007 56 38 23
2007-2008 62 45 25
2008-2009 72 55 26

Based on the 72 initial requests received for applications for the 2008-2009 school year, the following shows the type of referral, or relationship. Data from previous years were not available.

Family Members/Siblings 44%
Relatives/Extended Family 27%
Friends of Family 20%
Neighbors 7%
Other 2%

The steady increase in the number of applicants indicates growing interest in the school. Most applicants are referred through personal connections.

Stakeholder Involvement

The Board of Trustees has grown in number each year, since 2001. A Board member’s term of service is not limited and they have maintained a very low attrition rate among Board members, indicating Board members are committed to the mission. Benefactors and supporters provide the necessary funding and assistance to fulfill the school’s mission. The donor base has steadily grown in the areas of volunteerism and in-kind and monetary donations. A byproduct of efforts to increase awareness of the school is the expansion of the base of benefactors and supporters. Marketing efforts keep current benefactors and supporters informed through monthly luncheons, direct mail, electronic newsletter communications, website updates, presentations to civic organizations, and events such as the annual golf tournament and Breakfast of Champions. These marketing efforts are also most effective in maintaining interest about Nativity Prep Academy in all areas of San Diego County, bringing new visitors regularly.

In summary, since the annual budget process is completed ahead of the next school year, they are able to incorporate some long-term planning in the process. The school has little financial reserves to weather fluctuations in donations. The lack of an adequate endowment, fluctuations in regular donations, and the economic downturn pose challenges for school operations. One of Nativity’s greatest strengths is the written, comprehensive strategic plan. This plan will help the school plan for growth and additional curricular and operational needs for the next three-to-five years.

Areas of Strength

  • The majority of the schoolwide budget allocation (70%) is for programs that directly impact student learning
  • The budgeting process includes collaboration from all school constituencies
  • Sound financial and accounting practices, including an annual independent audit/review
  • The school has worked for the past five years within the budget to include increases each year for hiring well-qualified, credentialed teachers
  • Initial plans for the construction of a new school
  • A steady increase in the number of families applying for admission
  • A steady increase in the number of supporters and benefactors

Areas for Growth

  • Provide greater allocations for technology in the classroom, for teacher professional development, and for teacher salaries
  • Establish action steps for a capital campaign and new school facility with timelines pending a start date to be determined by the Board of Trustees.
  • Publish an annual report for the school’s benefactors and supporters
  • Increase the school’s planned giving and endowment funds

EVIDENCE

  • Architectural Plans for New Facility
  • Computer Lab
  • Donation Records
  • Financial Reports
  • Friends of Nativity
  • Fundraising Activities
  • Grant Records
  • Insurance Records
  • Legacy Society
  • Salary Schedules
  • School Budget
  • School Website
  • Science Lab
  • Supplies and Equipment
  • Technology Plan
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Chapter V: Schoolwide Strengths and Critical Areas for Follow-up

The school has carefully analyzed and described the current program and has clearly identified both strengths and critical areas for follow-up. Due to its small size, the teaching staff did much of the work as a committee of the whole. Input was elicited and received from all stakeholders. A number of consistent themes emerged and formed the basis of the four critical areas for follow-up: faculty, curriculum, facilities and finances. The first two areas are incorporated into the proposed Action Plan. The Visiting Committee is recommending that action steps be developed for the remaining two critical areas for growth.

Areas of Strength

  1. Clearly articulated, well-publicized, integrated statements of mission, vision, philosophy and expected school-wide learning results that were developed by all stakeholders and that impact student learning
  2. A committed, competent and supportive founder, Board Chair, and Board of Trustees
  3. A highly committed Principal who leads by example and empowers the staff to assume leadership in the school program thereby engendering a sense of ownership, community, collaboration and mutual trust
  4. A dedicated, hardworking faculty who are highly committed to serving students inside and out of the classroom
  5. Motivated and enthusiastic students
  6. An administrative structure that facilitates an effective functioning of the school and ongoing, two-way communication with the Board
  7. An effective system of student and graduate support which provides students and alumni tutoring, mentoring, high school and college admission guidance, and academic planning
  8. Supportive parents who want their children to be successful
  9. A concerned and involved Parent Committee that supports the school in a variety of ways
  10. A well-developed advancement plan that is effectively implemented by the Advancement Director and her team
  11. A volunteer I.T. manager who procures and services information technology, including computers, printers, routers, software and phones for both the school and the students’ homes free of charge
  12. A steady increase in the donor base and benevolent giving
  13. Effective and concerned counselors provided by Catholic Charities
  14. Enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, including the volunteer coordinator, mentors, tutors, a deacon and a priest
  15. A hands-on curriculum, utilizing a variety of learning activities, assessments and technology
  16. The use of Atlas curriculum-mapping software that has provided a good beginning framework for curriculum development
  17. Teacher participation in professional development

Prioritized Critical Areas for Follow-up

  1. Develop a more systematic approach to school-wide professional development and teacher evaluation, built on the common needs of teachers (especially classroom management), driven by assessment of student achievement, and based on current research and best practices, that will motivate teachers and students alike, improve differentiated instruction and learning, address the emerging technological and literacy needs of the students, and address the problem of faculty attrition.
  2. Establish a school-wide curriculum assessment process, including a process for measuring student progress toward the ESLR’s.
  3. Provide greater allocation for technology in the classroom, for teacher professional development, and for teacher salaries.
  4. Establish action steps for a capital campaign and new school facility with timelines pending a start date to be determined by the Board of Trustees.
  5. Integrate technology more effectively into the curriculum in all content areas, and provide professional development to support this integration.
  6. Increase planned giving and school endowment fund.
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Chapter VI: Ongoing School Improvement

Nativity’s schoolwide Action Plan contains four (4) broad areas of: faculty, curriculum, facilities, and finances. In turn, there are three action goals for each of these areas, for a total of twelve goals. In the areas of facilities and finances, the action steps for each of the six goals were undeveloped. The following provides a summary of Nativity’s schoolwide Action Plan, including additional recommendations by the Visiting Committee:

Faculty

  1. Improve teacher retention
  2. Establish comprehensive professional development plan
  3. Establish comprehensive teacher evaluation process

Visiting Committee recommendation — Fold the teacher evaluation process into the professional development goals, integrating the teacher evaluation action steps as appropriate.

Curriculum

  1. Establish and implement assessment process for ESLRs
  2. Establish and implement process to develop and assess curriculum in all content areas
  3. Adopt curriculum standards for art, technology, and religion

Visiting Committee recommendation — Adopt a curriculum development, assessment, and review cycle, which coincides with the California Department of Education textbook adoption cycle to maximize use of latest instructional resources.

Facilities – no action steps developed

  1. Develop timeline for capital campaign and construction of new facilities
  2. Develop contingency plan for school operations during construction
  3. Develop budget to accommodate costs of larger facilities

Visiting Committee recommendation — Establish action steps, persons responsible, resources, assessment, and report of progress, leaving timelines open-ended, pending a start date decision by the Board of Trustees.

Finances – no action steps developed

  1. Hire full-time president/executive director
  2. Establish larger endowment
  3. Establish long-term fundraising plan to address economic downturn.

Visiting Committee recommendations — For items #1 & #2 establish action steps, persons responsible, resources, assessment, and report of progress, leaving timelines open-ended, pending a start date decision by the Board of Trustees. For item #3, begin with action step of expanding donor base through “Breakfast of Champions” and delineate subsequent action steps, implementing as soon as possible.

Is the schoolwide Action Plan adequate in addressing the critical areas for follow-up?

The schoolwide Action Plan is adequate in addressing the critical areas identified for follow-up regarding faculty and curriculum. However, the plan is undeveloped in the areas of facilities and finance. The Visiting Committee suggests the schoolwide Action Plan be revised in accordance with the aforementioned recommendations.

Will the Action Plan steps within the various sections enhance student learning?

All twelve indentified goals will ultimately enhance student learning. The action steps are only developed for faculty and curriculum goals. No action steps are given for facilities and finances. Establishing the action steps for facilities and finances will concretize the vision and allow for an expedited start when the timing is correct.

Is the Action Plan a “user-friendly” schoolwide Action Plan that has integrated all major school initiatives?

The Action Plan for faculty and curriculum is in a user-friendly format and delineates action steps, persons responsible, timelines, resources, assessments, and reporting of progress. Assessment metrics should be made more quantifiable.

Is the Action Plan feasible within existing resources?

The school proposes to accomplish all six of the faculty and curriculum goals by June and/or Sept 2010. This is extremely ambitious given the extended school day, five week summer session, and extra-curricular activities at the school.

Visiting Committee recommendations — Pace the achievement of these goals and action steps over a five-year period. Divide the areas into two working groups and accomplish faculty and curriculum goals and action steps in parallel with facilitators for each group reporting progress and impediments to the Principal on a quarterly basis.

Is there sufficient commitment to the Action Plan, schoolwide and system-wide?

There is a high degree of commitment to the school by staff, students, families, and community stakeholders.

Existing factors that support school improvement:

  • High degree of commitment from and skill-sets of stakeholders
  • Dedicated corps of staff, faculty, and volunteers
  • Highly capable administration
  • Careful and frugal utilization of financial and material resources
  • Highly capable advancement team
  • Marshalling of community resources and support

Impediments to school improvement that the school will need to overcome in order to accomplish any of the Action Plan sections:

  • Teacher attrition
  • Over-tasked staff, faculty, and volunteers
  • Lack of action steps for six goals under facilities and finance.
  • Especially, lack of action steps for Finances Goal #3, i.e. funding during economic downturn
  • Overly ambitious timelines for achievement of faculty and curriculum Action Plan goals

Soundness of follow-up process to monitor accomplishment of schoolwide Action Plan

Responsibilities for action steps, timelines, resources, and reporting are well defined.

Visiting Committee recommendation — Assessment metrics need to be more specific, including but not limited to, numerical/percentage teacher retention goal, number of professional development events/activities, number of teacher observations and evaluations per year, target years for adopting standards for art, technology, and religion.

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